GRAND ISLE, La. - It is normally one of the main attractions on Grand Isle, but on this 4th of July weekend, the beach is deserted. It remains closed, courtesy of the oil spill in the Gulf. The timing of it all couldn't be worse, since it comes at the height of the island's summer tourism season. Normally around the 4th of July, there would be between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors on Grand Isle: this weekend, it's barely a small fraction of that.
"We don't have our tourists down here spending their money and we're not seeing their happy faces," said resident Denise Esponge. "You know, the normal vacationers that we see from year to year, that we look forward to seeing, we're not seeing them this year."
Esponge has lived on the island for eight years. She said what bothers her the most now isn't just the people she doesn't see-- it's also the sounds she doesn't hear.
"Usually kids playing on the beach, you hear the laughter," Esponge said. "[You'd] smell the barbecue, things like that and it's just not happening."
Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle said this was supposed to be the summer that brought the island back to its full potential, five years after Hurricane Katrina devastated it.
"We needed this summer," he said.
The oil spill changed all that. Yet, despite the beach closure and ongoing clean up, they are still trying to salvage what they can of the 4th of July weekend.
"I was proud to see this morning the kids opening boxes and the parents this morning putting swimming pools behind their homes. And they were putting water in it. Call the fire department, we'll come in with a hose and help you put water in it," Camardelle said. "We want to make sure we clean up and give a nice celebration to celebrate the 4th of July."
Mayor Camardelle said he will work with other agencies and officials next week on a plan that may allow people access to portion of the beach now closed on Grand Isle.